Interview with Kelli Mccluskey

Posted by Thom Smyth, March 18th, 2014

Proximity Festival is returning in 2014 for a whole new one-on-one performance program, taking over the Fremantle Arts Centre in October and November. Applications are opening soon, with a public forum to be held at FAC on Saturday 29 March. There’s some changes this year – Performing Lines WA artist James Berlyn is moving to an advisory role (he’s going to be in the UK for a DCA Fellowship!), and the team is introducing a national curatorial panel. Thom Smyth caught up with co-curator Kelli Mccluskey to hear what else we can expect from Proximity Festival 2014.

TS: Proximity Festival is back and is becoming something of a staple on the Perth arts calendar. Why do you think audiences are embracing this sort of participatory work so enthusiastically?

KM: Hmmmmn, you know, I think there is a genuine appetite out there for more immersive, participatory experiences in performance lately. Whether it has something to do with the fact that we are now used to living out aspects of our lives vicariously through mobile or static media devices and feel the need for physical intimacy is lacking somewhat, I’m not altogether sure. I think it could also have something to do with the expanding parameters of performance practice as a whole. Audiences no longer expect [or want] to be sat passively in a black box space, but are more inclined to have agency, to interact and to directly affect the outcome. It’s much more of a reciprocal experience and empowering for both parties I think.


TS: You’re based at Fremantle Arts Centre this year. Does the venue and physical space influence the works, or can they exist in any space?

KM: I think even the artist with the most rock solid concept cant fail but to be influenced by the space when they get in there and start working with it. Every building has a history, a personality and architectural idiosyncrasies that set it apart from others of its kind and FAC perhaps more than most! Some artists will be more attuned to these things and will actively find ways to work them into their ideas, whereas others it may be more indirect or accidental. That’s the beauty of being able to workshop in-situ in the building prior to the festival rolling out. it allows you to deepen that engagement with the site if its appropriate to your concept.

TS: The application process is changing this year to include a curatorium of national practitioners. What prompted that change?

KM:Well the lovely Mr James Berlyn who co-founded the festival with us three years ago is taking on his Fellowship which I have to say is so very well deserved and he is also keen to submit an idea to Proximity as a performance maker. So I think it was a realisation for us that we would be missing a vital limb when it came to nutting out the short-listed artists and due to the fact that the festival is now open to all art forms, we thought it would make sense to expand the knowledge pool to include makers, producers, directors from a vast range of practices to help us make informed decisions.

TS: Proximity is heading into its third year and has showcased works from a broad spectrum of practitioners, including non-performers. Are there any artforms that you would love to see appear as part of the festival that haven’t yet?

KM: Yes yes yes! Personally I would love some dark stand-up comedy in the mix as well as maybe some immersive sound or installation type experiences. But the interesting thing is, some of my favourite performances over the years have been from artists not in any way connected to disciplines I’m familiar with, it really has been like venturing into the unknown, which I totally love!

Want to get involved?

Proximity Festival Forum
Saturday 29 March | 10:30am – 1:30pm
Fremantle Arts Centre  | Finnerty St, Fremantle
RSVP by Thurs 27 March to
More info>>